AFC East Free Agent Grades and Draft Needs
Free Agency: 2006 was a loooong time ago. Since then Jason Peters has given up 6 sacks and a league worst 11.5 sacks and 8 penalties in consecutive seasons – a statistic made all the more ‘impressive’ given that injury restricted Peters to 13 games in 2008 – but still he insisted on being paid more in a repeat of his training camp holdout from last year. Considering that the Bills invested a lot of time converting the undrafted TE into a one season left tackle wonder, you’d expect a little more respect from Peters especially if he doesn’t have the production to warrant the money. Nonetheless he’s now an Eagle, and the Bills’ number one priority becomes left tackle. What wasn’t up for debate is Buffalo’s secondary needs for a complimentary DE across from Aaron Schobel, a complimentary DT next to Marcus Stroud and a stand out TE. What people weren’t expecting this offseason was Terrell Owens. Lee Evans, rookie James Hardy and potential slot dynamos Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish seemed enough for a team that would focus on Marshawn Lynch anyway, but TO was signed to a one year flash deal. I like this move; it’s a one year contract, TO performs year one, and he isn’t moronic enough to sacrifice any sort of respectable 2010 contract by falling out with Buffalo management this year. Worth remembering TO is 35, so if his play falls away it could humble him a little. Unfortunately, Buffalo were a little leaky in free agency losing chronically injured linebacker Angelo Crowell, solid run blocking guard Derrick Dockery and nickel corner Jabari Greer alongside Peters.
Draft Needs: Pass rush was the number one priority but that becomes obsolete with Peters’ departure. Robert Ayers or Everette Brown becomes Michael Oher or Andre Smith at 11. All along I think the Bills have coveted Brandon Pettigrew who helps both their run game and provides a long term red zone target in 2009 and a post-TO 2010, but 11 was always too high for him. Now they’re also working out of Philadelphia’s 28 slot the Bills are in prime position to grab Pettigrew, their only competition being Atlanta at 24. Possible pass rush options include Northern Illinois’ Larry English or Michael Johnson, the physical specimen but production stunted defensive end.
Free Agency: A strong offseason for Miami; no one expected them to retain right tackle Vernon Carey but they did. No one expected them to retain strong safety Yeremiah Bell but they did. They got the number one safety prospect Gibril Wilson to line up at FS, giving them one of the better safety combinations in the league. They also effectively swapped centres with Oakland as Jake Grove replaces Samson Satele; Grove gave up 2 less sacks last season and brings 3 more years of experience.
Grade: A- – Filling your top needs gets you an A-
Draft Needs: A possession receiver or corner to help their 25th ranked pass defence will be their priorities, and a youthful rusher next to Joey Porter wouldn’t hurt. With 2 second rounders you can expect Miami to leave with 3 of the following from day 1; the best route runner in the draft Brian Robiskie or 6ft4 possession man Kenny Britt, rush linebackers Larry English, Clint Sintim or versatile Conner Barwin and a top corner talent like Darius Butler.
New England Patriots
Free Agency: I’ll admit I’m impartial: I hate the Patriots. But… hats off for having one of the best offseasons so far in the National Football League. New England’s secondary looked weak post Asante Samuel, so they brought in Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs to bolster it; yes Springs is old but if you keep him healthy the guy can play, and Leigh Bodden’s poor season was a blip as his talent was hidden in the wrong scheme of a horrible football team. Fred Taylor is one of the better number two running backs in the league, but number two to who I don’t know. I think Maroney is done and a trio of Sammy Morris as a two down back being spelled with Taylor, and Kevin Faulk on third downs is the likely way to go. All they need Joey Galloway to do is get deep and clear the middle for Welker, and I think he can still do that. I think if you’re a GM in the NFL and the Patriots show interest in one of your players that you were expecting to kick to the curb, think again. New England are great personnel evaluators, so I trust their trades for special teamer/WR Greg Lewis and number two TE Chris Baker. They are also favourites in the hunt for Julius Peppers.
Draft Needs: A high second for Matt Cassel is more than satisfactory for the Pats, and I expect them to continue their overhaul of that ageing defence. Vrabel and Seau are gone, and Bruschi and Rodney Harrison can’t be far behind. They addressed the inside of that linebacker core last year, so why not go outside in 2009? Aaron Maybin’s electric Pro Day may move them outside of Patriot range, so I think they target a whichever linebacker provides the best intangibles and character combination. In that case expect Rey Maualuga, Conner Barwin, Brian Cushing and James Laurinitis have all received rave reviews for their work ethic and intellects. If they want intangibles and a permanent option opposite Randy Moss, how about son of Atlanta WR coach Brian Robiskie in the second?
New York Jets
Free Agency: Lito Sheppard for a 5th is a steal, since 10 months ago this guy was meant to be packaged in a possible Anquan Boldin trade. They didn’t have any huge losses, though they need a number two opposite the inconsistent Jericho Cotchery at some point now Laveranues Coles is gone, and ex-Ravens Jim Leonhard and Bart Scott are quality additions to that D. The Jets now have a legitimate top 10 defence in my eyes.
Grade: A+ – Top 3 needs were corner, inside linebacker and safety. All were addressed with serious quality.
Draft Needs: QB is solved if you believe Jets management so no Josh Freeman, expect Brett Ratliff to be a shock opening day starter… unless this is an elaborate smokescreen. Such a quality offseason means the Jets can make a luxury pick in the draft; Knowshon Moreno, Chris Wells or a top wide out like Jeremy Maclin – whose range seems anything from 7 to Oakland or 25 to Miami – are all options.